OK, I am officially confused. Which is it, does the GOP want to be seen as the champion of conservative religious tenets which hold homosexuality as sin and corruption; or, does the GOP want to be thanked as the protector of homosexuals from the evil-doing nasty folks of IS/Daesh?
No matter how hard some conservatives may try to avoid saying LGBT, the attack in Orlando, Florida was made on a GAY nightclub. As noted previously Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1) was capable of observing this fact; while, on the GOP side of the aisle Representative Cresent Hardy (R-NV4) just couldn’t quite resist the temptation to generalize the victims. Somehow, Representative Hardy’s lights couldn’t illuminated the fact that the victims were in a GAY nightclub. He’s not alone.
The Republican National Committee’s first response mentioned “lifestyles,” but even that was edited out of their second edition – now the terror attack was made on “any American.” Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) publically denied Pulse was a GAY nightclub immediately before blocking attempts to provide LGBT protections in a bill before his committee. [TP]
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was blunt: “This body should not be engaged in political games,” Cruz said. “We should be focused on the threat and keeping America safe and defeating radical Islamic terrorism.” [BusIns] Against whom? Once again, the victims of the horrendous attack were invisible.
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was just as vague in remarks made on the Senate floor yesterday — “This week in Orlando, Americans were targeted deliberately and taken forever from their families by a terrorist ISIL has claimed is “one of the soldiers of the caliphate.” It is clear from his behavior that this was not a random act of violence. This was a calculated act of terror.” [LoC pdf] Scrolling down the entirety of the Majority Leader’s comments yields exactly Zero references to the victims of the Orlando attacks – patrons of a GAY nightclub.
Yes, it was obviously calculated, and yes, it was an act of terrorism – against the patrons of a GAY nightclub.
But wait, after making the victims of the assault on the Pulse nightclub almost perfectly invisible in their comments about the attack, the GOP would now have us believe they champion GAY rights? Excuse my confusion – I would have thought these people were invisible to you but…
Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) appears on the scene with this bit of baffling political analysis: “Democrats are in a perplexing position. On the one hand, they’re trying to appeal to the gay community, but, on the other hand, they’re trying to also appeal to the Muslim community, which, if it had its way, would kill every homosexual in the United States of America,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL)” [TPM]
And, far be it from Mr. Trump to pass up an opportunity to stick his oar in the muddied waters:
Donald Trump, in his first major speech after the weekend’s tragedy suggested that Hillary Clinton “can never claim to be a friend of the gay community.” “She can’t have it both ways,” Trump said. “She can’t claim to be supportive of these communities while trying to increase the number of people coming in who want to oppress them.” Ask yourself, who really is the friend of women and the LBGT community: Donald Trump with his actions or Hillary Clinton with her words?” [TPM]
There seems to be more than a little political semantic gamesmanship here. The message to the heretofore invisible LGBT community seems to be either you are anti-Islam or you have to be anti-LGBT, there is no middle ground. This conflation of all practitioners of Islam as anti-gay is as inaccurate as it is distasteful divisive rhetoric. Those unsure of this might want to consider the following comments by an Islamic scholar in the Dallas Morning News:
“As Muslims we believe there’s no compulsion in religion. That’s actually a Quranic verse. Everyone adheres to their own set of values, their own set of morals. But that should not lead to the oppression of another person or to harming another individual. The way that we talk about that is the way that we talk about anything in the Quran or in the prophetic tradition.
Yes, you’re going to find Muslims that would offer revised interpretations of the Quran. But I think one thing that’s important to stress is that conservative is not the same thing as radical. If a person has conservative views that they uphold within their own family life, so long as that does not lead to denying, belittling, or dehumanizing someone else, then I don’t think that’s particularly problematic.”
Thus much for the lack of middle ground. Doing a quick inventory – Islam is not a compulsive religion (check), Islam has conservative followers (check), Islam teaches that one’s beliefs may not “deny, belittle, or dehumanize” someone else. (check) Conservatives are not necessarily radicals. (check) Only in the most bigoted way imaginable could a person decide that all members of the Islamic faith are radicals. Only in the most prejudicial manner could a person proclaim that all followers of Islam are necessarily so anti-gay that they could excuse or rejoice in the killing of their fellow citizens.
There may be a second message in the dog whistling coming from these Republican remarks. It’s message to their own base. If the actual victims of the massacre are invisible, and if they can be generalized out of the picture, then it’s possible to believe that all Muslims are radical, and it’s acceptable to “monitor, screen, place them under surveillance, and restrict their freedom and liberty” in the name of public safety for “all Americans” (except the ones we won’t name.)
A third screech from the dog whistle may be aimed at a more general audience. By creating an artificial “either/or” proposition the GOP can seek to associate Democrats with Muslims. The inference is that Muslims are dangerous, Democrats support Muslims, ergo Democrats are dangerous. Their’s is a simple but demonstrably false syllogism which depends on the acceptance of the initial false proposition that ALL Muslims are dangerous. I’m fond of calling this Squirrel Logic: Squirrels have hair on their heads. That man has hair on his head. Therefore, that man is a squirrel.
A Broader Perspective
While the GOP may wish to fixate on the terrorism facet of the attack on the GAY nightclub, what happened seems far more complex. The horrific massacre had more than one element – it had a very disturbed radicalized young American man wielding military weaponry with a high lethality rate, in a GAY nightclub, who intended to kill GAY people. It really isn’t hard to unpack the elements. A marginalized person (self or otherwise?) who attached himself to a radicalized version of a religion, and who had easy access to a military weapon and enough ammunition to launch a killing spree in a GAY nightclub, the victims in which have themselves been marginalized in anti-LGBT rhetoric.
Taking any one of the elements out of the toxic equation shouldn’t lead us to conclude that there is any single policy change that would have prevented the tragedy. However, removing at least one certainly wouldn’t hurt and might help avoid subsequent attacks.
It would help if we could tone down the anti-LGBT rhetoric. Just as it is no longer socially acceptable to make a joke of someone’s ethnicity, wouldn’t it be nice if the mocking, demeaning, and dismissal of a person’s sexual orientation were no longer acceptable in polite society. This isn’t “political correctness,” it’s merely fine old fashioned good manners. It would be even more helpful if we could enact statutes protecting the rights of members of the LGBT community and being as concerned about their rights as we are our own.
It would help if we toned down the anti-Islam barrage. Those whose image of Muslims, and especially of Muslim Americans, is composed of TV footage of Daesh outrages, or foreign cultural practices commonly abhorred, should take note of the many resources available for better understanding their Muslim neighbors. They should consider the following statements from Muslim community leaders:
Dawud Walid the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan says Mateen doesn’t represent Muslims in the U.S. His message to the public; Muslims are American and as all other Americans, they are loyal to their country even if they disagree with certain issues.The rule of American Muslims is to abide by the laws of the land and to be peaceful and this recent extremist act that took place this morning, is the rare exception and in no way embodies our morals or our values as Americans citizens who just happen to be Muslims,” said Walid. [CBS Detroit]
“We condemn this monstrous attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured. The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence.”
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” [CAIR]
A little more mutual understanding should certainly help more than vilifying the American Muslim community.
It would help if we made it less likely that a disturbed or deranged individual could get access to a military style weapon of war, which were never designed for civilian use. There are listings of weapons by lethality. The AK-47 style; the M-16 (AR-15) “family”; the M240 machine gun; the PK machine gun; the QBZ 95 assault rifle. It would seem reasonable that if a gun is listed as one of the five most lethal weapons in the world that common sense implies its ownership should be restricted. Perhaps restricting the magazine capacity would assist in diminishing the lethality of these weapons when they are misused by civilians? That, too, sounds like common sense.
It would help if we de-stigmatized those who are harboring feelings which are anti-social and the antithesis of stability. Who missed the signals that the Orlando shooter was demonstrating troubling personal behavior? Were the signals and warnings acted upon appropriately? Who could have warned authorities that the Aurora, Colorado theater shooter was exhibiting disturbing behavior – do we need to emphasize the necessity of giving local authorities a warning about those who combine disturbed thinking with fixations on violence? Who might have warned authorities about the intentions of the Colorado Springs PPA facility shooter? We are fond of saying “If you see something, say something,” why not practice what we’re preaching? And, why not support the funding and increased resources of our mental health services?
If we persist in seeing only those elements of mass shootings which conform to our pre-existing ideologies then we’ll miss the opportunities available to diminish the likelihood of further mass tragedies. A broader perspective is required to reach better horizons.